Meet the Board

Joy Walker - Chairperson

Joy is a Management Consultant assisting not for profit organisations and local governments to improve their strategic planning and operational service improvement capabilities. Previous work experience has been primarily in senior management roles within the not for profit sector, including experience of working within aged and disability services, a charity advocating for children and families; and the university sector in Australia.

Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Business majoring in Public Relations and Event Management (LMU); a Certificate in Health and Social Care (Open University UK); a Cert IV in Training and Assessment; a Graduate Certificate in Management (Australian Institute of Management) and a Masters in Public Policy and Management (Monash University). She is currently studying the Science of Happiness online through UC Berkeley. Since discovering Appreciative Inquiry, Joy is a strong advocate of organisational development through emphasising inquiry into strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

Previous Board experience includes time served as Treasurer of Cheltenham Community Centre and as Chair of the Governing Body of a Primary School in West Yorkshire.

Originally from the UK, Joy moved to Australia in 2003 with her husband and two daughters, living in the South East area ever since. With strong feminist beliefs, Joy is committed to equality, women's health and the public sector in general.

Mary Manescu - Vice Chair

Mary has held a range of clinical and senior management appointments in both private and public sector. She joined the Department of Health and Human Services in 2003 working in private hospitals regulation, capital projects and more recently health services performance.

Mary has a clinical nursing background and is a graduate of Monash University, holding a Master of Health Services Management from that institution and is a qualified infection control practitioner.

Mary has a passion for quality improvement and is an accreditation surveyor with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.

She was born in Romania and migrated to Australia almost 20 years ago. She lives in Berwick and is looking forward to supporting women in the South East by advancing WHISE’s cause for gender equality and improved health outcomes through health promotion. 

Sinfree Chirunga - Treasurer

Sinfree is a Business Manager at Peninsula Health and has extensive experience in senior financial and management accounting roles in the health public sector as well as the private sector in Australia, UK and Africa. She holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) majoring in Business Consultancy from Deakin University; Bachelor of Accounting Science (BCompt.) from University of South Africa; Diploma of Business Accounting from Chartered Institute of Management Accountants CIMA UK; and a Diploma of Project Management from Swinburne University of Technology. 

Sinfree is passionate about innovation and continuous business process improvement and believes that leadership is about empowering others to do great things. 

Sinfree was born in Zimbabwe where her interest in voluntary work started at an early age when she partnered with Compassion Ministries in caring for destitute children and widows.  She migrated to the United Kingdom in the mid-90s and relocated to Melbourne 10 years ago.

Sinfree is committed to gender equality, empowerment of women, freedom from oppression and an end to family violence.

Rhiannon Matthews 

Rhiannon is a PR and communications consultant with over 10 years experience of working in senior management positions in the UK public sector. This includes roles within the UK and Welsh governments and for one of the largest integrated healthcare providers. She has worked with Ministers, Senior Civil Servants and Board Members, providing leadership and advice, and managing all aspects of communication campaigns.

Rhiannon now lives in Mount Eliza and uses her strategic communication planning skills to help organisations effectively reach their audiences. Her experience spans internal and external communications through to campaigns, public relations, digital engagement, stakeholder management, crisis communications and more.

Rhiannon is married with three young children and is passionate about equality issues. She has managed Family Violence Prevention Campaigns on the Mornington Peninsula and wants to use her skills to help WHISE improve health outcomes for women.

Priyanka Akula 

Priya is a Chartered Accountant (ICAA) and a Chartered Secretary (AGIA) with a strong background in external audit and internal controls; having worked on large-listed clients both in Australia and the USA. 

Having grown up in the south east suburbs of Melbourne, Priya commenced her journey with volunteering at the age of 16 with MOIRA.  Since then, she has pursued her passion for volunteering with various organisations such as Young UN Women Australia Melbourne Committee, Radio 3ZZZ and Special Olympics Victoria and Western Interchange.

Robyn Fry

Robyn’s background is in the law, corporate governance, regulatory compliance and organisational risk management. She has extensive in-house legal, contract management, regulatory compliance, litigation and governance experience in the healthcare sector having worked in the Australian pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for more than 16 years. She also has 6 years public sector legal, compliance and governance experience.

Originally from Adelaide, South Australia, Robyn graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and has practised law since 1982. She moved to Melbourne in 1997 with her family and has been living in the South East since that time. In recent years Robyn has developed her not-for-profits legal and governance skillset through Governance Institute of Australia certificate qualifications and training opportunities.

Robyn is strongly committed to leveraging her longstanding legal and governance experience to make a positive contribution to achieve best practice in women’s health promotion and to improve the health and well-being of women in the Southern Metropolitan Region.

Laurenza Buglisi

Laurenza has served on the Australian Association of Social Workers Victorian Branch Management Committee since November 2013 and is also a member of the La Trobe University Social Work Course Advisory Committee.

Laurenza studied a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology from Monash University followed by a Master of Social Work from The University of Melbourne and then a Master of Clinical Family Therapy at The Bouverie Centre (La Trobe University). She specialises in providing therapy to children, young people, and adults who are victims/survivors of sexual assault or family violence and also to children and young people who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviour.

Laurenza is currently employed at South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA) as a counsellor/advocate and recently completed a twelve month secondment at The Gatehouse Centre at The Royal Children's Hospital. Laurenza has worked with Native Canadian communities in the field of family violence and has also travelled to Ghana to provide staff training around managing disclosures of child sexual assault. As such, her experience has emphasised the role of gender inequality in the issue of violence against women and children and the devastating impact interpersonal violence has on the overall health and wellbeing of women and children. Laurenza is particularly passionate about applying her direct practice experience to work on systemic change to reduce sexual violence within our communities.

Michelle Forrest

Michelle's passion for equality, empowerment and achieving potential has been evident throughout her career.

Michelle is a Learning and Organisational Development specialist, working in large organizations. She also has six years experience in welfare roles in youth work and prevention of violence against women.

In her spare time Michelle volunteers for YRIPP, supporting young people in police custody.

She holds a Bachelor of Social and Community Welfare and a Master of Organisational Leadership, both from Monash University. She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

Michelle is committed to supporting equality, fairness and opportunity for everyone.

Maya Avdibegovic 

Maya Avdibegovic is the Strategic Advisor, Sector & Diversity at Family Safety Victoria, the first government agency dedicated to ending family violence. The agency is leading the implementation of many of the government's family violence reforms including establishing and operationalising 17 Support and Safety Hubs across Victoria, establishing a Central Information Point, which will allow police, courts and government services to track perpetrators and keep victims safe and establishing and housing the new Centre for Workforce Excellence to build workforce capacity and capability in partnership with the sector.

Maya was born in Bosnia and graduated from Sarajevo University. She fled war-torn Bosnia in 1992 and lived in Germany for three years before migrating to Australia in 1995.

Maya is MBA qualified and highly skilled in strategic and business planning, innovation, operational, financial and change management.

From 2009 to 2017 as the CEO of inTouch, Multicultural Centre against Family Violence, she transformed the organisation from its grassroots level to becoming a national leading agency.
Being a refugee and a migrant herself, Maya is passionate about supporting migrant women and their families to settle in Australia and have equitable access to services.


Family Violence and cultural consultant to Women’s Health in the South East

Maha Sukkar

Maha is the first Arab Muslim Police Office to wear a head scarf (Hijab) to join the police force in the history of Australia. She is currently the Multicultural Liaison Officer for the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne whilst also being enrolled to complete a Masters of Management and Policing at the Charles Sturt University.

Maha holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in advertising and design, an Australia Diploma of Public Safety (Policing) from the Victoria Police Acadamy, An Australia National Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) Language Aide (Arabic), a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from Victoria University, a Certificate IV in Training and Assessments from NMIT TAFE and a Diploma in Quality Management and Assurance from Chisholm Institute of TAFE.